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BDNF gene
brain derived neurotrophic factor

Normal Function
The BDNF gene provides instructions for making a protein found in the brain and spinal
cord called brain-derived neurotrophic factor. This protein promotes the survival of
nerve cells (neurons) by playing a role in the growth, maturation (differentiation), and
maintenance of these cells. In the brain, the BDNF protein is active at the connections
between nerve cells (synapses), where cell-to-cell communication occurs. The
synapses can change and adapt over time in response to experience, a characteristic
called synaptic plasticity. The BDNF protein helps regulate synaptic plasticity, which is
important for learning and memory.
The BDNF protein is found in regions of the brain that control eating, drinking, and body
weight; the protein likely contributes to the management of these functions.

Health Conditions Related to Genetic Changes

WAGR syndrome
The BDNF gene is located in a region of chromosome 11 that is often deleted in
a condition known as WAGRO syndrome. This condition is a variant of WAGR
syndrome, which is a disorder that affects many body systems and is named for its
main features: a childhood kidney cancer known as Wilms tumor, an eye problem
called anirida, genitourinary anomalies, and intellectual disability (formerly referred to
as mental retardation). WAGRO syndrome also includes obesity. The deletions that
cause WAGRO syndrome remove many genes from one copy of chromosome 11,
including part or all of the BDNF gene. The loss of this gene is responsible for weight
gain that begins in childhood in people with WAGRO syndrome.
People with WAGRO syndrome may be at greater risk of neurological problems
such as intellectual disability and a developmental disorder called autism that affects
communication and social interaction than those with WAGR syndrome. It is unclear
whether this increased risk is due to the loss of the BDNF gene or other nearby

other disorders
Certain common genetic variations (polymorphisms) in the BDNF gene have been
associated with an increased risk of developing psychiatric disorders such as bipolar
disorder, anxiety, and eating disorders.
Most studies have focused on the effects of a particular polymorphism in the BDNF
gene. This variation alters a single protein building block (amino acid) in the protein,
replacing the amino acid valine with the amino acid methionine at position 66 (written
at Val66Met or V66M). This change impairs the protein's ability to function. Many
studies report an association between the Val66Met polymorphism and psychiatric
disorders; however, some studies have not supported these findings. It is unclear
how changes in the BDNF gene are related to these disorders. A large number of
genetic and environmental factors, most of which remain unknown, likely determine
the risk of developing these complex conditions.

Chromosomal Location
Cytogenetic Location: 11p13, which is the short (p) arm of chromosome 11 at position
Molecular Location: base pairs 27,654,893 to 27,722,058 on chromosome 11 (Homo
sapiens Annotation Release 108, GRCh38.p7) (NCBI)

Credit: Genome Decoration Page/NCBI

Other Names for This Gene

brain-derived neurotrophic factor

Additional Information & Resources

Genetic Testing Registry
GTR: Genetic tests for BDNF

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Scientific articles on PubMed


Research Resources
Atlas of Genetics and Cytogenetics in Oncology and Haematology
HGNC Gene Family: Endogenous ligands
HGNC Gene Symbol Report

Sources for This Summary

Han JC, Liu QR, Jones M, Levinn RL, Menzie CM, Jefferson-George KS, Adler-Wailes DC, Sanford
EL, Lacbawan FL, Uhl GR, Rennert OM, Yanovski JA. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor and obesity
in the WAGR syndrome. N Engl J Med. 2008 Aug 28;359(9):918-27. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa0801119.
Erratum in: N Engl J Med. 2008 Sep 25;359(13):1414.
Citation on PubMed:
Free article on PubMed Central:
Rodrguez-Lpez R, Prez JM, Balsera AM, Rodrguez GG, Moreno TH, Garca de Cceres M,
Serrano MG, Freijo FC, Ruiz JR, Angueira FB, Prez PM, Estvez MN, Gmez EG. The modifier
effect of the BDNF gene in the phenotype of the WAGRO syndrome. Gene. 2013 Mar 10;516(2):
285-90. doi: 10.1016/j.gene.2012.11.073. Epub 2012 Dec 21.
Citation on PubMed:

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Sears C, Markie D, Olds R, Fitches A. Evidence of associations between bipolar disorder and the
brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) gene. Bipolar Disord. 2011 Nov-Dec;13(7-8):630-7. doi:
Citation on PubMed:
Shinawi M, Sahoo T, Maranda B, Skinner SA, Skinner C, Chinault C, Zascavage R, Peters SU,
Patel A, Stevenson RE, Beaudet AL. 11p14.1 microdeletions associated with ADHD, autism,
developmental delay, and obesity. Am J Med Genet A. 2011 Jun;155A(6):1272-80. doi: 10.1002/
ajmg.a.33878. Epub 2011 May 12.
Citation on PubMed:

Reprinted from Genetics Home Reference:

Reviewed: March 2013

Published: September 13, 2016

Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications

U.S. National Library of Medicine
National Institutes of Health
Department of Health & Human Services

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